Ohio#039;s birthday rings in

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 6, 2003

ROME TOWNSHIP- It is meant to be a lasting memento of the state's 200th birthday: Lawrence County's Bicentennial Bell will be made during a two-day process Monday and Tuesday during the Lawrence County Fair.

A number of local organizations will take part in various ceremonies throughout the two-day event, from passing ingots for casting to providing patriotic music for various ceremonies connected with the bell's casting. The public is invited to all bell-related events, and committee members said they hope for a large crowd each day. The bell pouring and its tour through the county a week and a half later will be videotaped and made into a documentary by a crew at Ohio University Southern.

"This video idea came up a few weeks ago," committee member Doug Cade said. "Some committee members said they'd love to have a memento of this and I'm thinking, 'what kind of memento do you want?'

Email newsletter signup

And Bill Dingus said, 'let's get OUS to do a tape of it.'"

The tapes will be ready for viewing about a month after the bell makes its tour of the county July 19-20.

The Verdin Company of Cincinnati is making the bells, using a mobile foundry. The entire process will take two days and will be open to the public.

On Monday Verdin workers will begin the process by heating the furnace to a temperature of more than 2,000 degrees. While the furnace is heating, a personalized bell mold is prepared. The mold, customized for Lawrence county, is held in place by a mixture of more than 200 pounds of sand and resin. The mold is contained in a box called a flask. It is made of steel and weighs more than 500 pounds.

The first ceremony marking the start of the bell pour is scheduled for noon Monday. The ceremony begins with the posting of the colors and a 21-gun salute by the VFW Post 6878 of Proctorville, and playing of the National Anthem. Fifty area school children will pass 21-pound ingots down a line to Verdin employees, who will add them to the furnace.

Five hundred pounds of ingots are used to make the bell; all of the material involved in the bell casting is produced in Ohio.

Once the molten metal reaches a temperature of 2,200 degrees, it is ready to be poured into the mold. Using a specially designed crane, bell casters will transfer the molten metal first into a ladle, and then into the mold. The bell then is left to cool overnight. A second ceremony to mark the actual pouring of the bell is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

At 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, the mold containing the bell will be cracked open, exposing the bell to the public view. Using a large sledgehammer, the ceremonial first swings crack the hardened, sand-resin mixture. Look for the dark, bell-shaped cone of sand, which helped form the bell's interior.

The bell is sandblasted, the first step in cleaning and smoothing the surface of the bell.

Over four hours, the bell is polished to a high shine. Some sections are treated with stain and polished again to produce a unique look. The bell is ready to be dedicated and rung for the first time.

"When the bell first comes out of the mold, it isn't a very pretty sight," Cade said. "But it's neat to see the bell when it's actually finished."

The bell will be officially presented to the Lawrence County Commission in a ceremony at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Those who want their own bicentennial bell, albeit a smaller version, may buy them during the fair. The Verdin Co. will sell replica bells during the two days the bell is being made. Afterward, the Lawrence County Bicentennial Committee will sell bells, bicentennial medallions, barn pins and other memorabilia.

The Verdin Co. made 10 special Lawrence County bells for sale in honor of the bell pouring. The number one bell will be auctioned off during the fair. Proceeds from all bell sales will benefit the county's official bicentennial project, the Historic Jail at Burlington.

The Ohio Bicentennial Commission is casting commemorative Bicentennial bells on site in each of Ohio's 88 counties. The project is the signature event

for the whole state, and serves as a guarantee that every Ohio county will take part in and benefit from the Bicentennial.

The bells are molded in the "American" style of the Liberty Bell, will be personalized with its county name, forging date, the Great Seal of Ohio and the Bicentennial logo.

Stephen C. George, executive director of the Bicentennial Commission, said that 200 years ago, as the Northwest Territory opened, there was a great need for bells in Ohio schools, courthouses and churches.

"Bells no longer order our lives as in years past, but they continue to inspire," George said. "This project, while re-establishing the tradition of early bell-founders, guarantees a lasting Bicentennial legacy for the generations that follow."

The state's bicentennial has become an inspiration for various related projects throughout the county.

Fairland Elementary School fifth-graders have made posters in honor of the state's birthday. Those posters will adorn the Briggs-Lawrence Library booth at the fair and may also be displayed at the bell casting site. The poster project was sponsored by the Proctorville Women's Club. Club member Maxine Jenkins said she was pleased with the creativity that went into each poster. All of them depict something special about Ohio history.

"One is of (astronaut and U.S. Senator) John Glenn, one is about the history of the Cincinnati Reds - they're all amazing. Some are very artistic," Jenkins said.

The bell will be on display for approximately one week after the fair.

It will then be taken on a tour throughout the county, to give as many people as possible a chance to see and even ring the bell. It will be on permanent display on the first floor of the Lawrence County Courthouse.